[FFF] Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita. - 12 [BC8D8447].mkv_snapshot_10.33_[2014.09.22_18.51.33]

The Best Anime Of 2014 – Part 2: Genre and General Story Awards

Characters, even the most excellent, need something to happen around them to give them an opportunity to be excellent. So, as we build towards the countdown of the best anime of the year, we next turn our focus to those anime that excelled in a genre format and/or general story way – Most Entertaining or Best Drama, for instance.

And another small change that I made to this year’s awards really helped me here. Before, I’d always pick the nominees for each category by season (to mean that they won their respective category for that season) which never presented much of a problem in the character awards because there’s always good characters to find each season. However, for awards like “Best Action” or “Best Slice of Life” there are oftentimes seasons where there is no standout example to pick. The trying to pick something for each season for each award would often take a long time as I tried to figure out how to put square shows into round award categories. The solution – which totally took way too long for me to figure out – was to just list those nominees that I truly thought excelled in the category with no regard to what season they belonged to.

K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple, stupid! I can’t tell you how often this little saying has been proven true – thanks 7th grade shop class. (Do they still offer shop class anymore? Do the Japanese have shop class and if so, where is my cute girls making stuff in shop class anime?)

Before getting to the awards, as a reminder, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum but there’ll be some because of how they’ll relate to specific awards. As for the continuing shows, only the part of the series that ran during this year is under consideration for this year’s awards. Below are links to the already completed parts to this year in review.

The Best Anime of 2014: Part 0 – The Worst Offenders
The Best Anime of 2014: Part 1 – Cast and Character Awards

Best Action Series

Nominees:

Kill la Kill
Space Dandy
Knights of Sidonia
Haikyuu!!
Aldnoah.Zero
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

[eraser] Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis - 01 [AB52BDBA].mkv_snapshot_17.29_[2014.12.26_03.00.52]Winner: Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
Runner-up: Kill la Kill

On balance both of these series contain about the same level of action and this action is imbedded into the very fabric of the show at about the same level but what gives Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis a slight advantage is it’s action contains a level of majestic epicness that was unrivaled by any other anime this year. I’d characterize the action in Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis as Indiana Jones-like but I realize that show was an homage to the earlier swashbuckling era of Hollywood; so, it would be more correct to say that this anime is also an homage to the swashbuckling era as well. I wish more anime was made in the format, barring that, I’d take a sequel🙂 .

Best Slice-of-Life Series

Nominees:

Space Brothers
Silver Spoon S2
Mushishi Zoku Shou
Yama no Susume: Second Season
Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita
Shirobako

[Cthuko] Shirobako - 01 [720p H264 AAC][E2FB3DA5].mkv_snapshot_14.31_[2014.12.17_03.50.45]Winner: Shirobako
Runner-up: Space Brothers

The publicity and word-of-mouth for Shirobako implied it was going to be a cute girls making anime cutely series. I have nothing against the occasional cute girls doing something series but combined with the anime making angle the series screamed that is was planning on being a unrealistic, soulless, fan-pandering anime series. I lamented about how we never get a mature office drama/comedy slice-of-life series and planned on totally skipping it. I started hearing rumblings that the pre-airing descriptions were wrong and lo’n’behold Shirobako turned out to be almost exactly that mature office drama/comedy slice-of-life series I’ve been wanting for almost as long as I’ve been an anime fan. It’s two cour length – another amazing facet to this anime – means that we could be seeing Shirobako repeat winning this category for 2015 as well. One of dangers of a long running series like Space Brothers is that a slipup taints the series and takes a long while to be forgotten. I’m almost positive that Space Brothers was not originally designed to run as long as it did because the tight, gripping, near perfect pacing and plotting of the first ~50 episodes gave way to a loose, sometimes uninteresting, meandering in the next ~35 episodes before finishing it’s last ~15 episodes much closer in quality to the start of the series. Even at the end it was hard to flip the switch back, after ~35 weeks of mild disappointment, to muster the same level of affection and respect for the series. Pausing the series like they did was probably a very good idea because when Space Brothers comes back I will be excited to see it.

Best Science Fiction

Nominees:

Space Brothers
Space Dandy
Knights of Sidonia
Aldnoah.Zero
Parasyte -the maxim-

[Underwater] Knights of Sidonia - 01 (720p) [3844F8E2].mkv_snapshot_06.05_[2014.05.18_01.52.18]Winner: Knights of Sidonia
Runner-up: Space Brothers

Knights of Sidonia was hampered a bit by a weaker cast of characters but it did not lack in the science fiction department. An exciting story – what might be the last surviving generation ship holding the survivors of Earth after an alien invasion, on the run for a millennium – coupled with intelligent SF suppositions about what a situation like would cause humanity to do – making humans able to photosynthesize because it’s more efficient, clones, immortality for those deemed important to keep around, societal institutions built around the need to have a large standing army ready to repel the enemy, etc. – made this series the absolute best science fiction series of the year.

Best Comedy

 Nominees:

Tonari no Seki-kun
D-Frag!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Amagi
Brilliant Park
Ore
, Twintails ni Narimasu

[Underwater] Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun - 01 (720p) [C389E67E].mkv_snapshot_05.22_[2014.07.26_03.54.02]Winner: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Runner-up: Tonari no Seki-kun

I thought, while watching Tonari no Seki-kun, that it had this award in the bag. It’s constant creative comedy that remained fresh for 20+ episodes, while keeping it’s set-up so simple, was one of the most astounding feats an anime pulled off in 2014. To see it bested by Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is almost inconceivable. Not that I’m complaining, two stellar comedies in one year is just fine. I’ve had the chance to rewatch both of these titles and have found them just as funny – if not funnier – the second time around which is, I believe, the mark of a truly great comedy.

Best Drama

Nominees:

Hunter x Hunter
Nagi no Asukara
Knights of Sidonia
Aldnoah.Zero
Parasyte -the maxim-

[HorribleSubs] Hunter X Hunter - 140 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.35_[2014.07.30_01.52.50]Winner: Hunter x Hunter
Runner-up: Parasyte -the maxim-

Chalk up another easy category win for Hunter x Hunter. If it’s not apparent yet that this anime so completely wowed me then maybe the next few wins will help🙂 . I’m still a bit baffled that Hunter x Hunter was able to impress me so. I don’t particularly like long form shounen series. Partly, I think, because of the constant demand for more content to fill those manga magazines drains the creativity of the authors and the demographic it is selling itself to has certain needs and expectations that normally limits how serious I can get about them. I guess that just goes to show that there are exceptions to just about every rule, if one is willing to look for them. Another Madhouse series, Parasyte, started strong at the end of 2014 and will almost assuredly finish strong in 2015 and be a competitive choice to win this award next year.

Most Entertaining

Nominees:

Kill la Kill
Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
Hoozuki no Reitetsu
Haikyuu!!
Grisaia no Kajutsu
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

[Underwater] Mikakunin de Shinkoukei - 01 (720p) [8A3E74AB].mkv_snapshot_10.42_[2014.02.25_03.19.54]Winner: Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
Runner-up: Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

Entertaining is not the same as comedy and it’s not even true to say that all comedy entertains. Entertaining, in my heart of hearts, is what will most likely draw me back to rewatch a series. And in that, this year’s winner and runner-up have already succeeded because I’ve already rewatched both series and would strongly be tempted to watch either again right now, if I only had the time. Entertaining is similar to comedy in that both are under-appreciated in the skill needed to constantly be good. Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis with it’s swashbuckling hijinks and Mikakunin de Shinkoukei with it’s rom-com antics normally should have gotten old by the second half of the series but they didn’t – they both continued to strengthen their appeal to the bitter end. (And both should have sequels made🙂 ).

Best Show No One Saw

Nominees:

Phi Brain – Kami no Puzzle S3
Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita
Yama no Susume: Second Season
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru

[Doki] Yama no Susume Second Season - 13 (1280x720 Hi10P AAC) [C2F02158].mkv_snapshot_10.09_[2015.01.05_23.44.44]Winner: Yama no Susume: Second Season
Runner-up: Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita

“No one” is a bit of a stretch; according to MAL there’s been 2,750 people who have finished this solidly good anime series (to put that into context, Aldnoah.Zero Part 2 currently has 38,435 people watching it). I can understand why Yama no Susume was passed over by so many people – the slice-of-life stuff that is the core of this series did not mesh well with the 4 minute episode lengths of the first season. Taking time to smell the roses and enjoying them is an impossible task for a series that has a 4 minute episode and I don’t know why anyone thought that was a good idea. I almost didn’t bother with the second season but happened to notice that the new season was going to have 15 minute long episodes. It’s still not perfect. A normal half hour episode length probably would have pushed this series up to at least being the runner-up in the slice-of-life category; however, it’s still a series that shouldn’t be missed. For those tired of anime spending time in a school, Yama no Susume: Second Season spends almost no time whatsoever in school. The animation is great overall and a few episodes were solo animated by a single animator (read that to mean they were super lovely episodes to look at). The focus on actual mountain climbing is interesting. The main characters are interesting enough and are pleasant to watch as they interact with each other. And last, but not least, several episodes feature an American couple in the background as the main characters climb one specific mountain and listening to them be “American” was a real hoot.

Best Plotting

 Nominees:

Hunter x Hunter
Ping
Pong the Animation
Knights of Sidonia
Hanamonogatari / Tsukimonogatari
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

[HorribleSubs] Hunter X Hunter - 140 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.38_[2014.07.30_01.54.36]Winner: Hunter x Hunter
Runner-up: Knights of Sidonia

“Best Plotting” goes to the series that best puts together it’s plot and knows how to keep itself feeling fresh and vigorous. And yes, this is another win for Hunter x Hunter. Not only was what the plot contained good enough to win Best Drama, but, how the plot was put together was also a masterful display of talent. At the height of the Chimera Ant Arc there were so many different story threads going so many different directions that is should have fallen apart but it didn’t. The result was a tightly knit cohesive whole and after building such a perfect story arc the show effortless glided to the next story arc without the stumbles and missteps that would be expected. Knights of Sidonia picks up second place because it confidently put together an engrossing SF tale set in space that this life long science fiction fan was excited to watch.

Best Storytelling

Nominees:

Kill la Kill
Hunter x Hunter
Ping
Pong the Animation
Haikyuu!!
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Yama no Susume: Second Season
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

[Commie] Ping Pong - 11 [CD248944].mkv_snapshot_13.07_[2014.06.26_03.07.37]Winner: Ping Pong the Animation
Runner-up: Kill la Kill

“Best Storytelling” is given to the series that best tells it’s story. This might sound deceptively simple but this award really factors in many parts of a series into one award because of what anime is. How is the time of each episode used? Do the OP/ED help or hinder the main series? How about the choice of background music and seiyuu? Are the characters the best they can be and utilized in the best possible way? Is the writing sharp? Cinematography? How well were problems dealt with? The list could go on. Kill la Kill did not have a ton of money behind it but the director, Hiroyuki Imaishi, was clever and smart and was able to maximized the potential of his fellow creators so that Kill la Kill was way more entertaining and good then it really should have been. Even more impressive was Ping Pong. I remember reading that Masaaki Yuasa and crew had three weeks to create each episode. If that doesn’t sound insane stop what you’re doing and go watch Shirobako right now, I’ll wait. … You’re back? Yeah, that’s insane. What’s even more insaner is that Masaaki Yuasa pulls it off and creates one of the best anime of the year. It’s all there: the music, the animation, the OP/ED, the characters, the character development, the story, the plot and plotting. I think they even used the fact they were rushed to infuse the show with a roughness that matched the intended feeling of the show perfectly. I eagerly await the next anime from both directors and crew.

Best Ending

Nominees:

Kill la Kill
Hunter x Hunter
Ping
Pong the Animation
Knights of Sidonia
Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita
Amagi
Brilliant Park
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

[HorribleSubs] Hunter X Hunter - 131 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.47_[2014.05.28_02.44.27]Winner: Hunter x Hunter
Runner-up: Ping Pong the Animation

An anime adaptation of a long running shounen anime that continues (hopefully) well past where the anime stops is not the normal type of series where a good ending is to be expected. I was frantically steeling myself – saying that a non-ending ending was just fine – as Hunter x Hunter was approaching the end of it’s run because I wanted a good ending but realized it probably wasn’t possible. And then a funny thing happened, nobody told the creators that a non-ending ending was permissible in this case and went and nailed a great ending. I’m not going to spoil it for you but it was perfect. Coming in second is Ping Pong and that really only makes sense because a good storyteller always knows how to end the story🙂 .

That’s it for part 2, the next part is the VMA awards.

3 thoughts on “The Best Anime Of 2014 – Part 2: Genre and General Story Awards”

  1. I’ve seen really good (high quality) cuts from Yama no Susume. I’ve seen Marower over at Anime Viking write about the series, too. SOL? Mountain climbing? This might just be what I’m looking for a fresh break from the usual stuff, kind of like how Barakamon was my summer remedy.🙂

    And that solo animator, were you referring to Ryouma Ebata? He’s one of the first animators whose names I memorized. I especially like how he draws character walking.

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  2. Best show no one saw: You already know how much I love Yuki Yuna – your post endorsing it was how I found this blog in the first place – but I also just finished watching Yama no Susume earlier this month after someone recommended it to me. I really enjoyed both seasons, but I actually thought s2’s 15-minute length was perfect. It gave enough time to flesh out the characters and their friendships, but it kept things moving too. I’d be afraid that at 25 minutes there’d be too many stretched scenes, slow pans, extended monologues, and other time-filling/pace-killing stuff. A couple of the episodes were already flirting with that even at 15 minutes, but not very many. Overall a buy-worthy series, IMO. If we actually could buy it in the US, which I’m sure will never happen.
    Another good anime that REALLY got overlooked (<3000 total on MAL) was Kaitou Joker. Since it's a kids show I was afraid it would be too episodic/simplistic/repetitive/cutesy (take your pick), but it isn't. It has a good, entertaining cast of characters, a decent ongoing plot (nothing too complicated, but good enough to tie the story together), and the whole is generally well-executed. May not sound like much, but there are plenty of adult anime that can't get those three basic things right. Even in this category I wouldn't put it ahead of YuYuYu or YnS, but I genuinely looked forward to watching it every week. I’ll be watching season 2 in the spring too, even if no one else is.

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  3. @miharusshi: From what I read Ryouma Ebata at the least does solo animate episode 17 of the second season.

    I grew up in an area of Ohio that the last ice age saw a glacier flatten the surrounding countryside very flat and I could never grasp why people would want to climb up a mountain. (That it’s there always sounded like a stupid reason to me.) One of the things that I loved Yama no Susume for is there is a scene that conveyed to me why people do it and it made me, who dislikes edges and heights, want to try mountain climbing someday.

    @Jim D.: I dinged Yuki Yuna a bit in the Best anime no one saw category because it was seen by a fair amount more people and it’s sales in Japan show that it was, at least, watched over there.

    I almost tried Kaitou Joker when it came out. The fact that it’s getting a sequel does say good things for it and the script writer was no joke – maybe a quick watch will be order before the spring season starts. It can’t that much worse then Phi Brain and I’ve already watched 75 episodes of that show (and would watch a sequel if it gets made🙂 ).

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